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Highland Town Council members question proposed sustainability commission

Town of Highland
Town of Highland

Efforts to create a sustainability commission in Highland are drawing a number of questions from town council members. Residents proposed establishing the commission to help identify grant opportunities and propose environmentally-friendly policies to the town council, among other things.

Resident Catherine Perrin says there may be cost-saving opportunities that town officials haven't considered. "If we had some native plants put in along the bike path, along some of these other areas, along some of the natural areas, that would cut down substantially on your man hours and your fuel use," Perrin told council members during a study session Monday.

But council members asked how exactly the sustainability commission would work and why it should be part of the town government. The commission wouldn't be able to apply for grants without the town council's approval, and council member Roger Sheeman noted that the redevelopment and plan commissions already have their own standards for green space on private property.

"So I see a conflict there, and I just don't see how that's going to be reconciled," Sheeman said.

Council member Mark Schocke asked how a town commission could address a global issue like environmental justice. "There are plenty of public needs, right? There's cancer survivors, right? Like, how many people know another person either in their family or their friends or their community that have cancer. The town of Highland also doesn't have a board or commission on that, either," Schocke noted.

But park board member Carlos Aburto felt the commission would be an opportunity to raise awareness and start practicing sustainability. "This organization wants to have you make a commission so that they can work very hard to bring you opportunities for grants, ideals, just forward-thinking kind of things. That's what this organization wants to do, and they're willing to do it with a lot of hard work for free. So, it's kind of a no-brainer, guys," Aburto told council members.

Going forward, council members want to hear from elected officials in other communities with sustainability commissions and may survey Highland residents on what they'd like to see a commission address. An ordinance to establish a sustainability commission will continue to be discussed during a December 5 study session.